|E D I T O R I A L
P A G E
Wednesday, September 9, 1998
of family and community
The Russian roulette
RUSSIA kept up its painful and inexorable march to doom on Monday with the State Duma rejecting Mr Viktor Chernomyrdin's nomination as Prime Minister. It was quite expected and hence quite frightening. It also marked the simultaneous Duma rejection of President Yeltsin's half-hearted proposal for power-sharing. This time Mr Yeltsin provided substance to his new spirit of accommodation by sending draft legislation authorising the Duma to elect a few ministers. This is as far as he could go in loosening his total control over all aspects of administration. As he must have realised, this was too little, too late and too involuntary. Now the battle for power has to start all over again. If and when Mr Yeltsin renominates Mr Chernomyrdin, the Duma is nearly certain to say "nyet" a little more loudly. That will force Mr Yeltsin to dissolve the Duma and order parliamentary elections due late next year. Given the general mood of desperation and disgust with the unholy wrangling in Moscow, Yeltsin and his nominees are not likely to win. That way Russia may witness the re-enactment of Poland which underwent a "violet restoration" when it disowned pro-market reformers and re-embraced liberals and socialists. At least this must be the hope of the Communists and other assorted Left-liberals and also the fear of the western friends of Mr Yeltsin and ardent champions of market democracy.
Mr Yeltsin's troubles stem from a well-known or widely despised flaw in his character. As the 1991 drama and the 1993 crisis showed, he jumps to the brink at the first chance, makes wild commitments to all and sundry, uses men recklessly and later reneges on his words and betrays his associates. He, therefore, evokes deep distrust and his commitments carry no weight. No doubt, the Duma refused to buy his power-sharing deal, suspecting that he might not keep up his end of the bargain once his nominee takes over as Prime Minister.
Whatever be the final
outcome of the bizarre fighting in Moscow, one thing
seems fairly clear: Yeltsin's presidency is crippled, the
Duma refuses to remain a powerless appendage vulnerable
to manipulation by the President, the economic reforms,
which have wiped out the savings and purchasing power of
the Russians, have no takers and cry out for major
changes. It is a case of reforms needing reforms. In
fact, western leaders and analysts are aware of this as
their reactions prove. From President Clinton downwards,
everyone is warning Mr Yeltsin not to give up reforms
even while refusing to pump in more money to shore up the
sinking economy of Russia. For their part, political
commentators and economists are stressing the need to
build a liberal Leftist model of development which will
ensure a reasonably smooth transition from what they
derisively call command economy to a more open and less
regulated system. The Asian crisis marked by rapid growth
(with the help of imported capital) and an equally rapid
dissolution only underlines the need for a new look at
the globalisation mantra.
Sharif under attack
THE coming together of seven opposition parties against the Islamisation move of Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, under normal circumstances, would have been seen as a major political development. After all, Quiad-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah was the first to raise his voice firmly against turning Pakistan into a theocratic state in which non-Muslims would be reduced to the status of second class citizens. He would have died a happy man had the country which he helped form adopted the Turkish model of governance. However, the current agitation against Mr Sharifs attempt to introduce a Bill for indirectly reviving Gen Zia-ul-Haqs Nizam-e-Mustafa is in no way related to Jinnahs dream of a secular Pakistan. The sole objective of the campaign to oppose the introduction of the Bill, both inside and outside Parliament, is merely to embarrass Mr Sharif. For Ms Benazir Bhutto the unstated objective of opposing the Bill is to deflect attention from the investigations in the corruption cases instituted against her and her husband Mr Asif Ali Zardari. To the other opposition players the controversial Bill provides an opportunity to regain the regional political ground they lost 18 months ago when Mr Sharifs Muslim League was swept to power with a massive majority. Had the Pakistan Peoples Party, which is heading the current anti-Sharif agitation, been serious about introducing the Jinnah model of governance Zulfikar Ali Bhutto would not have raised the bogey of an Islamic bomb for short-term political gains. Of course, if the agitation gains momentum, Mr Sharif would have only himself to blame for playing the Islamic card. As of today the mounting criticism of the Islamisation Bill is not likely to make Mr Sharif change his mind on the issue.
Before he dropped the
Islamic bomb he was under attack for the economic mess in
Pakistan and the clumsy attempt to cover up the
missile tracks which the US attack on
Afghanistan had left in the region close to the Pakistan
border with the territory under Taliban control. However,
if the opposition parties remain as united as they are on
the Islamisation issue, Pakistan may face the more
serious danger of balkanisation in the long run. The
opposition parties have set up a committee to work out a
strategy for ousting Mr Sharif from power. The committee,
among other things, would also explore the possibility of
presenting a formula for greater provincial autonomy.
When East Pakistan demanded greater autonomy it resulted
in the birth of Bangladesh. It is an open secret that the
Sindhis, the Baluch and other provincial minorities
resent the domination of Punjab which is the largest
province of Pakistan. According to reports, the
opposition leaders discussed the political situation
prevailing in the country and the deliberate steps being
taken by the government to destroy the federation.
The Islamisation of Pakistan would destroy the
federation. The leaders of the Mohajir Quami Movement
have already fallen out with Mr Sharif. If the movement
for greater autonomy remains on course, they may throw
their considerable political weight behind it to get even
with the Prime Minister for not fulfilling any of the
promises made to the MQM. A more disturbing aspect is
that if the situation gets out of control, the
Punjabi-dominated military establishment may be forced to
give up the pretence of being neutral in the fight
between Mr Sharif and the opposition parties. When two
cats fight it is the monkey which always gets the bread.
The trans-border killers
TRANS-BORDER communication of diseases is more dangerous and pervasive than trans-border terrorism. It was wise on the part of health ministers of several South-East Asian countries to sit up and think last week of prevention and cure of diseases which were threatening traditional societies in transition. Take for example, malaria, kala-azar and dengue haemorrhagic fever, which have spread from one country to another and taken a heavy toll of life. The Regional Director of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Dr Uton Muchtar Rafei, has most appropriately added HIV infection to the list of fast-spreading and killer ailments. New Delhi, where the health policy-planners and decision-makers met, is the right place for monitoring archival information with regard to communicable diseases. India is a victim of all kinds of infectious illnesses. If our health system makes public even a part of the available information truthfully, a very dismal scenario with object lessons for South-East Asia will emerge. Does a mosquito have any respect for national borders? Does the organism that causes kala-azar see the Line of Actual Control when it makes its way into Pakistan? Almost vanquished enemies of community health like tuberculosis are staging a deadly come-back. Medical history books describe the movement of the malarial parasite from Myanmar to north-eastern states of India and then to other parts of the country. Dengue is said to have broken out first in Manila in the 50s, moved on to Bangkok and then to the jungles of Myanmar. It is necessary to constitute a permanent body of health scientists and executives in health ministries of various countries to monitor the trans-border menace of communicable diseases.
The Voluntary Health
Association of India says that underprivileged groups
have specific problems, some of which may be in-built
while some others may be imposed upon them which
jeopardise their overall development and progress.
Therefore, the health care delivery system should be so
designed as to take each specific group into account,
catering to specific needs and problems by encouraging
personal involvement. Collaboration with voluntary and
non-governmental organisations should be sought to
integrate their activities and services with the
governments health development plan for the rural
population. The following strategies, if actively
pursued, can go a long way towards improving the health
and overall development of the underprivileged population
in our region and neighbourhood: (a) Formulation of
realistic development plans based on the needs of
specific groups. (b) Adequate understanding of the
socio-cultural background of different groups, perception
of diseases, their beliefs and taboos, and a study of the
health culture at the micro level. Positive values and
traditional skills should be encouraged and inducted into
the mainstream. (c) Identification of indigenous herbs
for medicinal use and their preservation and
documentation. (d) Efforts should be made to develop
proper sanitation facilities, personal hygiene and to
provide safe drinking water. Attempts should also be made
to dispel certain negative beliefs, taboos, and
magico-religious practices, while retaining positive
beliefs. (e) Development of horticulture with adequate
emphasis on local fruits. Healthy nutrition should be
encouraged through local produce and local recipes. (f)
Health education should be imparted by the local people
(preferably women) with guidelines provided by health
functionaries. (g) Community leaders, clan chiefs and
prominent religious figures must be involved in the
decision-making process in which women should also be
included. (h) Appropriate benefits from the government
should reach the people in time, and government and
non-government staff should be readily available to
understand and address the villagers problems with
patience. Most important, the concept of cooperatives and
effective marketing should be introduced in order to
generate a competitive economy.
Decline of family and community
IN a significant research project in the early 1970s the British Social Science Research Council (BSSRC) asked carefully selected samples of 1500 people a crucial question thrice within a span of five years. The question was: what does the quality of life mean to you? The answers the BSSRC got were revealing. Belying the widespread impression that the British people placed more emphasis on material goods, the number of people who emphasised a good home life and a contented outlook was clearly more than twice the people who emphasised the quantity of consumer goods they had. The latest survey clearly put the maximum emphasis on the family and home and general contentment.
The good health of the family and community is important for the happiness it brings, from a wider perspective; it is no less important to stress that this also provides a firm basis for peace and stability in society. When family and community ties are strong, it is more likely that people can be mobilised for the protection of the environment and for peace movements.
Since family and community are widely regarded by people themselves as a significant determinant of the quality of life, it is useful to examine their health status by looking at some statistical indicators. This analysis has to be confined to some industrial countries alone, as the comparable data for most developing countries is difficult to get. For the analysis here we depend on the statistical tables on social issues in some recent Human Development Reports.
In a typical community of 10,000 people in North America countries, divorces number 48 per cent of the marriages contracted and 27 per cent of the births take place outside marriage. Nearly 8 per cent of the families are single female parent homes. In this community of 10,000 people in a typical year there are 23 drug-related crimes, 4 reported adults rapes, one intentional homicide, one suicide and as many as 236 people get injured (some of them die) in road accidents. As many as 39 members of this community are in prison.
In a typical community of 10,000 people in Nordic countries divorces number 50 per cent of the marriages contracted and 46 per cent of the births are outside the marriage. Single female parent homes are 7 per cent of all families. In a typical year in a community of 10,000 Nordic people, there are two suicides.
In the European Union divorces number 28 per cent of the marriages contracted while 19 per cent of the children are born outside marriages.
Thus, while considerable differences can exist regarding the various statistical indicators from one region to another, on the whole there is clear evidence that even in those parts of the world where economic needs of almost all people have been met and hence they ought to be more free to devote themselves to the improvement of the quality of life perhaps the most important of which is family and community life the situation is very disturbing.
In his widely acclaimed book, The Growth Illusion, Richard Douthwaite quickly traces the history of family and community in Britain to show the step-by-step drift towards loneliness.
In many developing
countries like India the decline of family and community
life has been very visible in recent years. The breakup
of the joint family in particular has been quite rapid in
India. Growing consumerism has uprooted several good
traditions and aggravated some earlier problems to an
extent that these have become unbearable. The cultural
invasion, which has accompanied economic
liberalisation, has weakened some time-honoured
values on which family and community life was based.The
decline of family and community life has been a major
cause of unhappiness and distress in the world. What is
more, it is this decline which has become a major
obstacle in fighting some other basic problems such as
environmental ruin. Thus this aspect of social change
should receive more attention and priority than it has
got in recent years.
BOGEY OF ISLAM IN PAKISTAN
IF founders of States were to return by some miracle they would be horrified to find how their dream had gone awry. Pakistan is one such example. Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, who created the country literally single-handed, did not want religion to be mixed with the affairs of the State. The first speech he made after winning the promised land was that the Muslims and the Hindus in the subcontinent would in due course cease to exist in the religious sense and become either Pakistanis or Indians.
What Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has done by enforcing Islamic laws is the antithesis of Jinnahs exhortations. He wanted the State to be modern and moderate, not retrograde and extremist. But the successive rulers, including the most progressive of them all, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, have plotted to supplant the constitution with another one with the help of maulvis so that the peoples rights are drowned in the cry for pure Islam.
When I was in Lahore and Islamabad a few weeks ago, I could hear the growing voice of dissent, the different strata of society speaking out against the deficient and dictatorial administration. The common man, who had helped Mr Nawaz Sharif sweep the polls 18 months ago, expected him to curb the prices, provide opportunities for economic development and better the quality of life. The bomb gave a diversion as well as a new edge to chauvinism. But the economy deteriorated further following the sanctions.
If more of Islam could give food, Mr Nawaz Sharif would have found a formula to pacify the restive public. The late Gen Yahya Khan could not even keep East and West Pakistan together in the name of Islam. Religion beyond a point gives diminishing returns. But, then, it has become the last resort of desperate politicians. Mr Nawaz Sharif is no exception. Yet it looks as if he has lost his nerves. He has a popular base which, no doubt, is shrinking. He should have gone to people to explain his difficulties. They might have supported him and his efforts to overcome them.
Instead, he succumbed to the pressure from fundamentalists, who have their set formula to enforce discipline in the name of religion. Pakistans malady is, however, deeper. Economy is one factor. The lack of cohesion in the country poses a bigger danger. A top dignitary of a neighbouring country, returning from Islamabad, found Pakistan in the midst of a serious inner conflict. The transfer of Mr Gohar Ayub Khan from Foreign Affairs to a minor portfolio is only a straw in the wind. The differences on the Kalebag Dam Punjab on one side and Sind, the NWFP and Baluchistan on the other are too serious to be papered over.
Hedged in by several sides, some indication of a rapprochement with India might have helped Mr Nawaz Sharif. Had New Delhi thrown a lifesaver in the shape of specific talks on Kashmir for him to swim across the turbulent waters of Pakistan, he might have found a solid ground. He cancelled his visit to Durban because he could not afford to return empty-handed after meeting Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee.
But Mr Nawaz Sharif has to blame himself for most of his troubles. After supporting and sustaining the Taliban, who represent the quintessence of fundamentalism, he could not have escaped the fallout. Flames of fundamentalism were bound to reach Pakistan where bushfires of fanaticism have been burning since the assassination of Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan in 1952.
There is something in the argument that the backlash of what the Taliban, supported by the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), did in Afghanistan (for example, no education for women) was bound to affect Pakistan. Before that could happen, Mr Nawaz Sharif wanted to prove his religious credentials. Hence the dictum: holier than thou. Yet his action has given legitimacy to fundamentalists. They may not stop at what they have got. Mr Nawaz Sharif seems to have overestimated their strength. True, they can bring roughnecks on the streets but they cannot muster enough support in elections. All religious parties put together have never polled more than 5 per cent votes in the country.
The reaction of Pakistans third chamber, the armed forces, is yet unknown. The top brass is reportedly worried over the contamination of the middle ranks. (In 1994, there was an attempt by colonels and brigadiers to overthrow the government because it was not Islamic enough.) It is clear from all sources that Chief of Army Staff Jahangir Karamat does not want to step in. However, his predicament like that of many others in Pakistan and outside the country must be why Mr Nawaz Sharif with a two-thirds majority in the National Assembly had to resort first to the emergency and then play the Islamic card to buttress his rule. And still the unanswered question is why democracy has not taken roots in Pakistan even after 50 years of independence.
For New Delhi, the situation is of some concern because the anti-India bias strings together the fundamentalists from the different parts of Pakistan. With Afghanistan under the Taliban and Pakistan without the constitutional tug, it is a long and combustible stretch. It can be a place for shelter as well as a breeding ground for terrorists, who may be tempted to meddle in the affairs of Central Asia on the one side and India on the other. The proxy war in Kashmir may get intensified.
Mr Vajpayees concern over too much of religion in a neighbouring country is legitimate. But it does not behove a BJP leader of his stature to say that when the world is getting into the 21st century no step should be taken that is retrogressive. The raison detre of the BJP is pure Hinduism of the olden days. The party cherishes the kind of nationalism which will negate the centuries old composite culture of India.
Mixing religion with politics is, no doubt, regressive. Pakistan is a casualty of such thinking. India has to guard against it because that can be the end of democratic polity. The Sangh Parivar is determined to take the country to the fundamentalist path. But it should be fought tooth and nail. No wonder, even the Puri seer has attacked Home Minister L.K. Advani for deliberate misuse of religion in the interest of politics.
One heartening development
in Pakistan is that more and more people are shedding
fear of the maulvi and lashing out at fundamentalists.
The Press too has lent its voice. In contrast, fewer and
fewer people in India are attacking the Sangh Parivar for
communalising the atmosphere.
IT was a great moment for the Haryanvi woman when she received the news of her husbands promotion. She was living an uneventful life in a hinterland district town of Haryana, ever busy in domestic chores and tending her Sahiwal breed cow, lovingly called Shiela. She deeply loved her. For Shiela provided milk and butter in abundance to the family besides bringing cheer to the few poor in the neighbourhood who got their quota of free supply of lassi every morning.
The promotion deserved to be celebrated. She at once lighted the stove and in no time served steaming hot desi ghee ka halwa to her children and husband, neighbours and friends who started trickling in on hearing the news.
The promotion necessitated posting at the headquarters at Chandigarh. The woman was deeply disturbed by the second part of the news as she had learnt from her children that the Chandigarh Administration forbade keeping of milch cattle in homes. However, huge German shepherds, great danes and doberman of the canine world that dirtied footpaths, parks and neighbourhood green patches along the outer walls twice a day without fail had the place of honour. Friendly and useful Shiela couldnt be accommodated.
The husband tried to cheer up the lady by narrating the splendour of the City Beautiful. There are avenues of exotic trees that bloom with bright flowers and fill the air with fragrance unlike our dull ones sheesham, neem and banyan. The city has a complex network of open well maintained roads. It is adorned by Rose Garden, Leisure Valley, Shanti Kunj, walking trails and a sprawling lake called Sukhna.
All this pep talk brought no solace to her. She was worried about the fate of her family treasure the most trustworthy family friend, Shiela. She was on the horns of a dilemma. For the sake of her childrens education she preferred Chandigarh, but wouldnt it be a treachery to desert Shiela, who had always stood by the family in times of need apart from bolstering their fragile economy. Despite the good news of promotion, there was general gloom and Shiela too sensed it and looked downcast. Her mood was immediately reflected in the reduced intake of fodder despite getting a generous sprinkling of her favourite fodder.
But the die was cast. A decision was taken to send her to the village. A truck was hired and parked by the side of a high ground to help Shiela to step in. The whole family was there at this heart-rending moment. Children had bunked their school and college to be present. The lady who didnt sleep throughout the night had spent the entire morning with Shiela. She was given a thorough brushing, and the fur was shining gold. Her fodder required during the journey was neatly packed in jute bags.
Animals can easily sense the coming events. So, Shiela would not touch the fodder despite all pampering and cajoling. Tears started rolling down her eyes as she was nudged to move out of her Thann (living area). She would not budge. The children sobbed as she was pushed hard by the helpers who were called for the purpose. Poor Shiela! She repeatedly craned her neck backwards and beseeched everyone with a forlorn look asking not to send her away.
The family prayed for her
safety and comfortable resettlement in the village. A
week later the news came that Shiela could not bear the
separation; she had stopped eating and breathed her last,
pining for the family. It was a tragedy beyond words.
THE tragedy of present-day India is that it has developed a clogged and corroded mind in which an elevating breeze can hardly blow in. It has become virtually incapable of doing any creative and constructive thinking and translating such a thinking into solid action on the ground. And, what is equally tragic, whenever in rare cases, original and deep thinking is done and followed by determined work at the field level, forces of negativism and nihilism appear on the scene and, sooner or later, destroy that work.
This proposition of mine gets reinforced by the shocking news that a few vested interests of Jammu and Katra are out to ruin the great edifice of reform which was so creatively conceived and so determinedly built at the Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine complex, and which had won the heart-felt admiration and gratitude of millions of the Matas devotees from all over the country and abroad. These interests have floated a proposal, in total violation of the underlying objectives of the reform as well as in total violation of both the letter and spirit of the Supreme Court judgement in the case, to bring in some persons from the backdoor into the affairs of the shrine and siphon off a huge sum of money from the shrine on a permanent basis. To attain their ends, an amendment to the Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Act is intended to be carried out and a Cabinet sub-committee has been constituted for the purpose.
The pernicious move must be scotched before it acquires wings. All well-wishers of the country in general and the Matas devotees in particular must get together and show their united will and power their true shakti. They must remember that the only thing necessary for triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.
The shrine of Mata Vaishno Devi, which is really a natural cave-temple, is located in the Trikuta hills, about 45 km from Jammu. The nearest town is Katra from the base of which the devotees have to climb to a height of about 6000 ft. The unique sanctity of the holy cave lies in the existence of three pindis: Moortis, which represent all the three shaktis Maha Saraswati, goddess of intellect; Maha Laxmi, goddess of wealth; and Maha Kali, goddess of recreation.
Pilgrimage to distant holy places in the hills is an important part of Indian tradition. In the ancient period, yatris invariably encountered a charming environment the air was exhilarating, forests thick and green, and streams full of crystal-clear water. The spell that nature cast on the yatris mind brought in peace, and created within him a new rhythm, a new spirit.
The state of the Vaishno Devi yatra, before the introduction of the reform, through the promulgation of the Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Act , 1986, was deplorable. It was a soul-depressing and not a soul-lifting experience. It was an encounter not with exhilarating air but foul stench; not with thick and green forests but a ravaged landscape; not with crystal-clear water of the Banganga but with desolate bed of a drain.
Worse, it was not being face to face with the spirit of the great souls and great seekers of the truth, but with the motivation of manipulators, ignorant and closed minds who, though spiritually blind, carried torches in their hands for the guidance of others. It was superficial, soul-less, action-less and deed-less India at its worst an India which had been sucked of its real values and in which the people had lost the capacity to be good and do good.
After my first journey, as Governor of the state, from Katra to Vaishno Devi in 1985, I was impelled to record: Whereas I was much impressed by the halos of moortis and unflinching faith of the devotees, I was shocked by the material and moral corruption. If anyone wanted to see the degeneration of our society, one has just to walk from Katra to the Vaishno Devi cave. One would get the impression, not of a wounded civilisation, but of a society stricken with terminal illness. Obviously, in such a cultural wasteland, spirituality was stifled and faith undermined.
I took, within myself, a silent decision. If opportunity came my way I would undertake a radical reform with regard to the management and improvement of the shrine and its complex, formidable obstacles notwithstanding. I had a number of objectives in view. I wanted to remove the awful insanitary conditions, rid the shrine of the control of obscurantists, prevent the misuse of offerings and instead utilise them for creating environmental conditions in which the soul-lifting traditions of pilgrimage of ancient times could come alive. I also wanted to bring out the humanistic aspects of religion and demonstrate that reformed Hinduism and reformed social and environmental order could be the two sides of the same coin.
Fortunately, I got the opportunity in 1986, when Governors Rule was imposed in the state under Section 92 of the Jammu and Kashmir Constitution. Making use of my legislative powers, I enacted, in August 1986, a law under which a totally autonomous board known as the Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board, with the Governor as chairman, was set up. The entire management of the shrine and the complex around it was vested in this board. All the offerings and donations were deposited into the funds of the board from which they were spent on humanitarian and development schemes.
Rapid improvement was carried out with the board funds. In a short time, the entire 14-km route was widened, made pucca, tiled and lighted with about 1,000 sodium vapour lamps. More than 10 lakh tiles were used for the route, about 5,000 parapet walls constructed, about 2,000 metres of railings installed at dangerous points, 26 shelter-cum-cafeteria units set up and all modern sanitary facilities, including thousands of flush latrines, vacuum cleaners, fogging machines and brooms provided.
Now, the Vaishno Devi Shrine has become, in its own way, a practical manifestation of the reformative spirit, a symbol of religious, social and cultural advancement, and also a model of creativity and dynamism in administration. There is nothing to make the visit jarring or nauseating as it was before. There are no beggars or lepers, no self-appointed custodians of the shrine complex to cause harassment, no exploitation, no disease arising out of insanitary conditions and unhygienic food and no unclean water or stinking latrines or stray cattle or dogs. On the other hand, Rs 5 crore to Rs 7 crore of shrine funds are being invested annually for economic and environmental upgradation of life in the region. The number of pilgrims has increased from about 4 lakh to 44 lakh per annum.
The spectacular improvement thrilled the yatri and the general public. They have indeed become the most enthusiastic supporters of reforms. On account of the public mood, the Dharmarth, which had gone to the high court against my decision, withdrew its petition. However, some Baridars persisted with the litigation and the matter finally reached the Supreme Court. The court upheld the constitutional validity of the Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Act and ruled: The supervision permitted in the Act is to ensure proper, efficient, effective and responsible administration and management of the shrine and its properties. With regard to the compensation to be paid to Baridars on account of their rights having been forfeited under the Act, the court made it clear that, as laid down under the said Act, the compensation had to be paid on the recommendations of the tribunal, keeping in view the guidelines framed by the Governor. Accordingly, the tribunal made appropriate recommendations and the Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board accepted the same. A part of the compensation has already been disbursed.
Where, then, is the need for amending the Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Act, 1986, and why should Baridars be brought in again and given one-third of the offerings at the shrine?
Clearly, the move is not at all bona fide and there is something more than meets the eye. It contains poisonous seeds which would destroy the entire green pasture of the reform. It must be resisted and, if necessary, an all-India agitation built for the purpose.
It may be added that a Hindu has an innate desire to visit at least a few of the hundreds of holy rivers, cities, temples and caves mentioned by sage Pulasty in the Mahabharata. For example, when Sankara travelled from a small village in Kerala to what is now known as Shankaracharya Hill in Srinagar, or when Swami Vivekananda undertook an arduous journey to the cave of Amarnath in the higher ranges of Himalayas, he not only fulfilled a part of his mission to rejuvenate Hinduism but also satisfied his inner urge to be upward and divine. It has been rightly observed: The number of Hindu sanctuaries in India is so large that the whole of the country can be regarded as a vast sacred space organised into a system of pilgrimage centre and their fields. It is this vast sacred space that today stands totally neglected in India. Most of the holy rivers are now nothing but stinking sewers, cities nothing but centres of urban chaos and temples nothing but places that rear both physical and mental slums.
The Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine has emerged as a shining example and an outstanding exception to the general state of neglect of places of pilgrimage. Let this exception be not mutilated. Let it not be said by the posterity that our generation was nothing but a set of small people selfish, intriguing and brutish, with no sense of national pride and respect for cultural heritage.
Movement in Burma
THE national movement in Burma, which has been rapidly developing, seems to be closely associated with the religious organisation and so conflicts between the secular and religious aspects of public questions have already created schism among the people.
A retired Burman official giving his evidence before the Crimes Enquiry Committee recently stated that unity of interests between laymen and priests should be secured and he proposed that each ecclesiastic head selected by the Government should support the authority of these heads.
We doubt if this proposal is likely to be supported by the Burmans or favoured by the Government.
The suggestion at least
shows that in Burma, as in India, there are people whose
ideal of nationalism is based on the close
associationship of the State with the Church, though how
they would work it out in practice is difficult to say.
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